It’s closing in on two and a half months of my life in London, and it’s definitely been a whirlwind of new experiences and stories to tell. When Samuel Johnson said, “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford,” he was right, and that was even back in 1777, without many of the things there are to do today. Although I’ve been to London three times previous to this journey, and how have had a few months to be back in my favorite city, there are still some things on my London bucket list that I need to complete before my time here is up (although I am hoping to obtain that much desired work visa so I can stay).
Take a photo in the style of The Beatles at Abbey Road
I fell in love with The Beatles as an 8th grader whose friends introduced me to their music and adorable messy haircuts. I became obsessed with them, bought all their albums, movies, anthologies and documentaries. I even did a class project on one of their concerts. Since being in London, I have been over to Abbey Road, but only alone, therefore was not able to take a photo on the crosswalk. I’ve heard London drivers hate us tourists getting in the way of this busy road, but I’d love to get a group of four or five people together so I can go back and take a photo here, to appease my 10-year love of The Beatles.
Attend an Evensong church service at Westminster Abbey
I’ve been to a few different church services in different cathedrals around England and Europe, but I have not yet been inside of Westminster Abbey. Because I am cheap, I don’t want to pay the entry fee to go in during the day. But I would love to go for an Evensong service sometime soon, because not only will I be able to see the inside of the church, I’ll get to hear some beautiful, haunting music. St. Paul’s Cathedral has these services as well, so I’ll have to try to get over there sometime.
Eat fish and chips from a newspaper
I’m not sure if there are even any shops in London that do this anymore, but I’m very keen to eat fish and chips from a newspaper at some point this year. I know most newspapers have dangerous chemicals in them, which makes this not an easy feat to find, but I’m sure with enough Googling and asking locals, I’ll find a place to go. I’ve already had fish and chips too many times to count, but I’d like to get back to the roots of this food and find a street vendor. If I can’t find one, then I’ll make it myself.
Make a call from London’s first red phone box
Hidden away near Piccadilly Circus is the first ever red telephone box. A couple years ago, I sought this out as one of my bucket list items. I did in fact find it, the only problem was, I had no one to call! I’d like to go back and use one of the UK phone numbers I’ve collected in the past few months, and make a call, just for fun. There’s no reason for this other than to be able to say I did it. These phone boxes are hardly ever in use any longer, so for nostalgia’s sake, I’d like to at least attempt to make a call, and what better one to do it from than the first?
Watch Shakespeare in the park (and at The Globe)
In 2010, I was in a production of “As You Like It,” on a stage in the middle of the woods. I think Shakespeare bodes well for outdoor performance, since sets need only be minimal. I really hope I will be able to enjoy some Shakespeare outdoors in London (or anywhere in England for that matter), next spring or summer, when the weather allows for it. I know there’s some great venues for this around the city, and hope to perhaps catch some fringe performances as well. I think watching Shakespeare in the country which it was created in is always such a delight, and there’s just something so romantic about the thought of watching it in a park or outdoor amphitheater. I also need to get over to The Globe Theatre soon, as that’s another venue I’d love to watch some of the bard’s work in.
Attend afternoon tea
I can’t believe I’ve been to England this many times (and now live here), and I haven’t had a proper afternoon tea yet. Other than it being a slightly expensive activity (compared to just brewing a cup at home for free), it’s something that is extremely English to do, and seems like a natural thing for me to take part of. There’s plenty of lovely tea shops around London (as well as one that has cats to accompany you), so I’ll need to chose one, and find a friend willing to join me for tea, cakes and tiny sandwiches. I won’t think of myself as a proper Londoner until I’ve done this ritual at least once.
What are some other not so well known London bucket list items I should experience?
Cathy Metzinger says
Plan a visit to Gordon’s Wine Bar (if you haven’t gone already), at 47 Villiers Street
London, WC2N 6NE. It’s just a few blocks off Trafalgar Square. It’s underground and there’s a room carved out of the bedrock to resemble a cave or grotto. Excellent wines, and very cool ambiance. One of my favorite places I visited on my last trip there!
Paying the entrance fee to Westminster Abbey is definitely worth the money. If you go late in the afternoon (around 15:00) you will miss much of the crowd 🙂
Visiting the Cotswolds, and taking in a Play in the West End. Shopping in the West End, and finally attending Notting Hill Gate Carnival before you leave. Bon Voyage!
I’m not saying going for proper afternoon tea shouldn’t be on your bucket list (it should, it’s a great thing to do) but it is a hugely marketed thing! I just wanted to make sure you don’t think it’s a normal everyday thing for us Brits or just the English to have! It’s not! I’m English, lived here all my life and had proper afternoon tea only a handful of times and then it was only because I’d purposely sought out having it! Basically turning me into a tourist of my own country!! I have had an amazing high tea (pot of tea of two, 3 different sandwich fillings, scones and jam, and cake) for just £13.95. It can be had cheaply. That wasn’t in London though.
You’ll be much more British if you simply share a cup of tea, biscuits, slice of cake or scones with jam and a good old chinwag with some friends in the afternoon!! 🙂 That’s about as British as us Brits get on a regular-ish basis!
Can I add to your bucket list:
– going to the very top of St Pauls to see the sunset over London with fantastic views. This is just the right time of year for it as the sun is setting early. So start making your way up to the top about four o clock on a nice day!
– Boat ride down the Thames (at night and during the day!)
– See at music concert at The Royal Albert Hall
– Cocktails in a cave
– Have a Brick Lane Curry
– Experience a trial at The Old Bailey! Galleries are open to the public daily
– Go on a pub crawl!
-Pick a Pantomime to see (not quite London specific but still a must)
– Visit London Zoo
– Visit the V&A museum
– Climb the O2
– Picnic in Hampton Court gardens
– Ice skating in Somerset House
– Ceremony of the keys (and the ravens) at The Tower of London
– Jack The Ripper Walk
– Go to Kew Gardens
– Go to Crystal Palace Park
p.s (Mickey’s Chippy in Paddington I think serves fish and chips in (fake) newspaper. You have to request this. Because of ridiculous health and safety rubbish now, I think it might be nigh on impossible to find them in proper newspaper. So you might have to take your own newspaper along if you just have to have real newspaper)
Sorry if you have done any of these things already!
Elizabeth West says
I know this wasn’t for me, but I’m bookmarking your list. 🙂
Except I am going to a concert at RAH in spring, so I can mark that off then!
Samantha! I’ve done three out of six! May I recommend The Brown or The Savoy for your afternoon tea? Or even Fortnum & Mason. (The Ritz is overpriced). I still need to get you on a train and down to Stonehenge for a visit! Maybe I’ll come to tea with you! (touristy or not, it’s still awesome). We did Abbey Road for my son’s 16th birthday in May, to include the video of him crossing the street. Please don’t miss Westminster Abbey! Oh, and the best fish and chips in paper is not in London … the best fish and chips in paper is enjoyed on a beach, preferably in Cornwall!
Visit the Monument to the Great Fire of London
Have a hot salt beef bagel on Brick Lane (open 24 hours)
Experience Portabello Road Market shopping on a Saturday morning
Experience Camden Lock shopping
Visit Spitalfields Market
Visit Marylebone High Street (especially V.V. Rouleaux & La Fromagerie)
Visit Neal’s Yard & walk around SoHo and Seven Dials
See the Christmas windows on Oxford Street (especially Selfridge’s)
Visit Borough Market in Southwark (go early Saturday morning)
Visit Southwark Cathedral
Have lunch at the cafe in the basement of St. Martin In The Fields (just off Trafalgar Square … nice, cheap lunch … hidden gem)
Visit the National Gallery
Visit the National Portrait Gallery
Visit Kensington Palace (and see the dress exhibit)
Wak through Hyde Park and see the Prince Albert Memorial, Diana Memorial Fountain, Serpentine Gallery, etc.
Walk through St. James’ Park; Green Park; Regent’s Park (& Queen Mary’s Gardens)
Visit Royal Observatory Greenwich and stand on the prime meridian
Visit The Cutty Sark
Visit the Tower Bridge (and walk across the top)
Go to an antique fair at the London Horticultural Hall
See the horses at Horse Guards Parade
Visit Churchill War Rooms
Have your picture taken with the lions at Trafalgar Square
Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Shop and dine at Covent Garden
Take a back stage tour at the Royal Opera House
Have lunch in Chinatown
bill merello says
Why not visit the CARTOON MUSEUM; it is located on Little Russell Street, which is very close to the BRITISH MUSEUM, which is on Great Russell Street. It is never crowded, in contradistinction to its lofty neighbor which is always full of tourists and students. (nearest tube stop–Tottenham Court Road.) Also how about hopping on a train at Liverpool Street Station and head due east to Southend Victoria (or a different train on a different line–this time at Fenchurch Steet Station and go to Southend Central.) Either way you will be in one of the neatest seaside towns–Southend, of course. It is a quintessential British seaside town which has, as I am told, the longest pier in Britain, if not the whole of Europe. You can go from one end to the other on a little train (or tram) for a very nominal sum if you do not want to walk from one end to the other. Finally, after you visit Portobello Road market, Petticoat Lane Market, Borough Market, Columbia flower market, and all those other tourist traps, do yourself a BIG favor and visit the Ridley Road Market (Dalston Kingsland or Dalston Junction overground stops. (Any day but Sunday.) This is a REAL London Market. You should also go to any London professional football (soccer) team’s game on a Saturday at 3:00 p.m. (usually). Don’t just pick one of the big teams. Any of the more than one dozen teams teams, if they are at home, will provide 90 minutes of true English sport. They are scattered all over London, north, south, east and west.
bill merello says
Why not visit the CARTOON MUSEUM; it is located on Little Russell Street, which is very close to the BRITISH MUSEUM, which is on Great Russell Street. It is never crowded, in contradistinction to its lofty neighbor which is always full of tourists and students. (nearest tube stop–Tottenham Court Road.) Also how about hopping on a train at Liverpool Street Station and head due east to Southend Victoria (or a different train on a different line–this time at Fenchurch Steet Station and go to Southend Central.) Either way you will be in one of the neatest seaside towns–Southend, of course. It is a quintessential British seaside town which has, as I am told, the longest pier in Britain, if not the whole of Europe. You can go from one end to the other on a little train (or tram) for a very nominal sum if you do not want to walk from one end to the other. Finally, after you visit Portobello Road market, Petticoat Lane Market, Borough Market, Columbia flower market, and all those other tourist traps, do yourself a BIG favor and visit the Ridley Road Market (Dalston Kingsland or Dalston Junction overground stops. (Any day but Sunday.) This is a REAL London Market. You should also go to any London professional football (soccer) team’s game on a Saturday at 3:00 p.m. (usually). Don’t just pick one of the big teams. Any of the more than one dozen teams, if they are at home, will provide 90 minutes of true English sport. They are scattered all over London, north, south, east and west.
I recommend The Berkeley for afternoon tea. The serves are very generous, plus all the desserts are based on or designed to look like shoes/dresses or handbags. If you have anything left over you can take it away in a carrier that looks like a handbag.
I also recommend – Hampton Court Palace (you can also go ice skating there or at the tower of london around Christmas), touring the Cotswalds, Bath (try a Sally Lunn bun while you’re there), Stonehenge, getting a Pie from Newman Arms, explore Buckingham Palace and see the change of the guard, The ceremony of the keys at the tower is definitely worth seeing!
The entrance price to Westminster Abbey is WELL worth it. You should still attend an evensong, especially in winter when it is so haunting and beautiful inside the Abbey. But the history and the great tombs and the Chapel of Edward the Confessor and the Henry VII chapel , the Chapter House, all are wonderful and should not be missed by anyone claiming to be an Anglophile. The Temple Church has a beautiful Sunday 11 am service with a magnificent choir. The Ceremony of the Keys is another don’t miss. Having been to London 16 times I could give you a mile long list but I cannot imagine leaving London without a long visit to Westminster Abbey.
Joan Opyr says
If you’re not a vegetarian, you might pay a visit to Simpson’s in the Strand. Have an English roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, take a carving class, or enjoy the full English breakfast. http://www.simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk/about.php?PHPSESSID=qh742bhdsrtkvo47tqb9d69m27
Please don’t do the Abbey Road zebra crossing. It is the bane of Londoner’s lives and people have been known to get run over! I recommend fing a Pie and Mash shop in the east end.
Oh, do go to Kings College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve to attend the Festival of Lessons and Carols.
Leslie G says
Our chippie in Dover serves fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, but it’s not printed newspapers, it’s just the plain paper. Much safer from a health standpoint.
Westminster Abbey takes so long to go around, because there’s so much there, that it’s actually worth the money, but either Evensong or another service is a good way to get a feel for it. I’ve gone to Evensong there, as well as Canterbury Cathedral. A lot of the great cathedrals and abbeys have a programme where your ticket will get you in for the whole year from date of issue, but I don’t know if that works with the Abbey.
sideshow_val (@sideshow_val) says
I LOVE afternoon tea in England. You can get a pretty good bang for your buck if you have tea at Portrait, the restaurant at the top of the National Portrait Gallery. I’m not sure why, but this restaurant is not really advertised in the building (ask security guards how to get to it), but it has an AMAZING view. It isn’t cheap (25 pounds), but it’s cheaper than the higher end teas and is still a stand-out experience.
sideshow_val (@sideshow_val) says
Sorry, meant to include this link for Portrait: http://www.npg.org.uk/visit/shop-eat-drink/restaurant.php
sideshow_val (@sideshow_val) says
Other random things I’ve done in London that were interesting but aren’t on the usual to-do lists:
7th fl of Tate Modern cafe (stellar view: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/45030013)
Kensington Roof Gardens (flamingos! in central London!) http://www.roofgardens.virgin.com/
St. Dunstan in the East (bombed out in the blitz; never repaired, but has become a beautiful garden and lunchtime spot for City workers)
Lord North St homes that still have visible air raid shelter signs
The George Inn in Southwark, frequented by Dickens and Shakespeare
Regent’s Park (especially if you go to Abbey Road)
And other things that are on my to-do list that might interest others:
Highgate or Abney Park Cemetery
Emirates cable car over the Thames (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modes/emirates-air-line/)
Free classical lunchtime concerts at various Wren churches or St Martin’s
Candlelight concerts at the Globe theater (http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/concerts-by-candlelight)
Chelsea physic garden
Derelict London tour (http://www.derelictlondon.com/)
East End Street Art Tour (http://www.alternativeldn.co.uk/tours.php)
Les Patisserie Des Reves in Marlyebone
Walk on the Thames at lowtide by using the stairs at Shad Thames and Horsleydown Lane
Candlelight tour of Dennis Severs’ house (http://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/the-tour/)
Wilton’s Music Hall (http://wiltons.org.uk/text.php?p=241)
Strawberry Hill House (http://www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk/)
Gray’s antique store in Mayfair, in which you can actually see some of the River Tyburn, which flows underneath the store (http://www.graysantiques.com/tyburn_river.php)
Paul Sexton says
Yes Afternoon tea at 3pm,with cucumber sandwiches, and tea cakes, tea served in small cups held between thumb and forefinger, with your “pinkie” sticking out DELIGHTFUL!!